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Founder Spotlight: Sandra Velasquez

27 July 2023

A Conversation with the Founder + CEO of Nopalera

Sandra Velasquez fearlessly crafted Nopalera as a high-end aspirational Latina brand, intentionally drawing from the cultural tapestry of Mexico to redefine the perception of luxury for Latino products. Her emphasis on cultural storytelling and visually clear messaging became the catalyst for Nopalera’s rich identity, allowing the brand to connect authentically with customers and evolve into a force to be reckoned with in the beauty space.

Since launching during the challenges of the pandemic, Nopalera has steadily gained recognition for its cultural impact, securing the Latino Start-Up of the Year award at the L’Attitude Match-Up Conference and infamously receiving (and refusing) not one but two offers on Shark Tank. In this edition of Founder to Founder, we hear about Sandra’s approach to maintaining authenticity as her business scales and her advice for other founders navigating the challenges of building a culture-forward business.

1. What does having an ‘authentic’ brand mean to you and why is it important?

It was important for me to intentionally build a high-end aspirational Latina brand to counter the assumption that all Latino products need to be “of value,” or in other words, lower price. I wanted to show that there can be a breadth, just like in dominant American culture, and to normalize the fact that the Latino community also wants and deserves luxury. 

2. In what ways does Nopalera embody authenticity? How does storytelling play a role in building an authentic brand and product?

Nopalera is overtly celebratory in its culture. I worked on branding and storytelling for almost a year to make sure our point of view was clear both visually and messaging-wise. We are cultural storytellers that make bath & body products. Storytelling is everything. A brand is a feeling.

3. What’s the key to maintaining your brand’s authenticity as the business scales? How do you ensure that all members of your team share and embody this story? 

Transparent Communication. When I was a solo-founder it was easier to control messaging because it was all coming from me. As our team grows, keeping everyone aligned on Nopalera’s purpose and messaging is a top priority. Specifically, we recently finished a new brand book that will serve as everyone’s guide. There has to be a source of truth that everyone refers to.

Building Camaraderie. We are a remote team split between New York and California, but we make sure to have several weekly meetings via Zoom and to meet in-person quarterly. It’s very important to build team camaraderie. The people make the place. 

4. What other advice would you give to founders to stay true to their own brand’s identity and authentically connect with their audience?

Knowing your why, your mission, and your values is the foundation upon which you build your brand. Make your brand about your customers and your mission. Show up in service of that every day. 

About Nopalera

Nopalera is a Latina-owned brand that provides a bolder, body experience through its bath & body products powered by Mexico’s nopal cactus – an ancient symbol of Mexican culture and one of the most nourishing plants in the world. Leading the Brownspace Opportunity with its iconic and culture-forward branding, Nopalera speaks to the overlooked clean beauty Latina consumer and is changing the narrative about the value of Latino goods in the market while inspiring the community to stand in their worth. 

Shark Tank

In January 2023, Nopalera’s founder Sandra Velasquez appeared on Shark Tank Season 14, where she stood in her worth and turned down two offers from Kevin O’Leary and guest shark Daniel Lubetzky, a defining moment that showcased her commitment to Nopalera’s value.

  • Experienced triple-digit YoY growth since 2022
  • Successfully bootstrapped for two years before closing $2.7MM Seed round
  • Found in 500+ retailers nationwide including Credo Beauty, Nordstrom, Free People, and more

About Sandra

Sandra Velasquez is the visionary Chicana founder of Nopalera, a culture-forward Bath & Body brand powered by Mexico’s Nopal Cactus. She is the proud recipient of the Valde Latinx Entrepreneur Grant, the Clean Beauty Summer School Pitch Grant, and the prestigious Latino Start-Up of the year award at the L’attitude Match Up Conference.

Sandra’s influence extends beyond Nopalera, as she hosts The Nopalera Podcast and mentors other founders, empowering them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Her dedication to authenticity and storytelling has played a crucial role in Nopalera’s triple-digit growth since last year, positioning the brand as a prominent player in the beauty industry.

Each edition of our Founder to Founder Q&A series will spotlight a different founder and a different challenge. Don’t miss out on tips from entrepreneurs we work with and respect by subscribing to our newsletter.